Mr Evil's Christmas Carol

Act III: The Second Spirit

'Unbelievable!' said Mr Evil, who now faced the prospect of walking home in his nightgown on the coldest of nights. 'I ought to have killed that kuparkuke when I had the chance!'

Mr Evil was just attempting to find his bearings, and figure out which way to get back home, when two sudden jolts of wind rushed past both his sides. Two people, it seemed, neither of them much taller than he was, had raced past him, and were hurtling into the darkness – and if he didn't know any better, he'd say one of them had had their hand in his pocket!

'Oi!' he shouted, voice thundering. 'Dirty pickpockets! Come back here at once!'

He chased slowly after them, but they were far, far quicker than he was. He was already panting and wheezing heavily by the time he had reached the street corner, and he was just about ready to give up – until he saw them, grinning and waving outside a house some way ahead of him. He was sure they'd run again once he caught up with them, but all the same he hobbled towards them, gasping noisily.

'Blasted thieves!' he barked. 'What did you take from me?! I want it back!'

'Hurry up, hurry up,' said the dark-coloured one. 'We haven't got all night, you know?'

'Who are you?' yelled Mr Evil. 'What is this?'

'We are the Ghosts of Christmas Present,' said the light-coloured one. 'I'm Checkers, and this is my girlfriend Draughts. Don't you remember us, Mr Evil?'

'Oh, not more of you,' groaned Mr Evil. 'I remember you more than I should like to – and I know my own Christmas well enough, thank you so much. I'm going to be spending it at work in the shop, as everybody else should be doing.'

'It isn't always about you, you know,' said the girl named Draughts. 'Checkers and I are here to show you how your cruelty and greed have affected those around you.'

'Ha!' Mr Evil shouted. 'Do not talk to me about cruelty and greed! You two are the most notorious thieves in the galaxy! How do you suppose that has affected your victims, I wonder?!'

'But to steal from those who have nothing?' frowned Checkers. 'Not even we would do something as cold as that. Draughts and I only steal from those who have plenty to lose. Ofttimes, those are only ill-gotten gains anyway. We're just two thieves stealing from our own kind, when you think about it.'

'And it's not as if the poor have anything worth stealing anyway,' said Draughts, who was now peering in through the window, her face and hands pressed to the glass. 'This might just be the most boring living room I've ever seen …'

Checkers gestured for Mr Evil to look in through the window, too. Apprehensively, Mr Evil stepped forward and gazed into the tiny living room.

He recognised the family inside the house at once. An unsmiling Perkins sat at the head of the table, carving away at the smallest of turkeys. At his one side stood his wife, who was pouring the very last drops from a bottle of wine into his empty glass. At his other side sat his son, the sickly and weak Tiny Tim. Two young girls – Perkins' other children – sat pulling a tiny cracker between them, neither of them speaking, and neither of them grinning.

Back outside the window, Mr Evil supposed that he was expected to feel in some way guilty about this. Well, he didn't. It wasn't his fault that Perkins had no money to feed his family. It wasn't as if his wages hadn't been generous. He'd just spent everything he had on the frail boy's medical bills, and it was hardly Mr Evil's fault that he'd got sick. He didn't know what Checkers and Draughts wanted him to do about it.

'It's a terrible sight, isn't it?' said Checkers.

'If you say so,' said Mr Evil, pulling his gaze back from the window to stare defiantly at the white-masked criminal. He wouldn't let one of the most wanted men in the galaxy take the high ground over him. 'But then it's hardly my problem, is it?'

'It's just you and Perkins at the shop, isn't it?' said Draughts. 'You make an awfully high profit for just two men. It's a shame that only you get to reap the benefit.'

'Why should I not? It's my shop, I own it!' hissed Mr Evil. 'And hang on – how do you know I make a high profit?'

'We happen to know that you've pulled in twelve thousand, four hundred and seventeen quarts in this year alone,' smiled Checkers. 'That's quite decent.'

'Don't forget the ha'penny,' sneered Draughts.

'By Galaxy!' bellowed Mr Evil at once. 'How on Brunsun is it that you two know how much profit I've made?! Did he – did Perkins tell you, did he?!' he screamed, now half-foaming from his furry white mouth.

'We've just been to look, haven't we Draughts?' said Checkers. 'We would've cracked into your safe, too, but you had that one locked down tight. Good job.'

'Well, I'm not an idiot!' Mr Evil smirked smugly. 'All of my assets are secured safely under lock and key, and not even the most notorious thieves in the galaxy can …'

'Do you mean this key?' smiled Draughts, jingling the tiny golden key above his head. 'Why in the world would you want to keep it in your pyjamas?!'

'OH MY GOD! GIVE THAT BACK!!' Mr Evil screamed.

'Ooh, you'll have to take it from us!' squealed Draughts. 'Hey, tell you what – let's make it a race back to your shop! First one there gets the contents of your safe!'

'GOOD GOD, NO!!' he wept. 'Take pity on an old man, I beg of you! I cannot possibly win a race against the two of you, I – I don't even have knees!'

'That's hardly our problem,' smiled Checkers. 'See you there, eh old chap?'

They bolted without him, into the dead of night, leaving him to hobble slowly along. 'Disgusting crooks!' he panted, as he struggled to keep them in his sights. 'Filthy, workshy scum! Why don't you just – get a proper job,' he went on, gasping, 'instead of – stealing what I worked so hard – to earn for myself! Dirty – no-good layabouts!'

When Mr Evil finally arrived outside of the Evil & Sons shopfront, Checkers and Draughts were already stood on the threshold – half a dozen sacks of money clutched tightly in their arms as they smirked and jeered down at him.

'Yeah. Have a good feel, why don't you?' snarled Mr Evil. 'Enjoy the gold – while it lasts,' he went on, panting still, 'because you'll never – get away with this! Put that money back – where you found it, or – or I promise – I promise you now, you'll both – both meet the sticky ends you so – so rightfully deserve, and – and sooner than you think!' He stared up at them in arrogant defiance, refusing to show any signs of fear or defeat – refusing to give them that satisfaction.

'Did – did you just threaten my girlfriend?' said Checkers blankly, the black eyes of his mask hollow, dropping the sacks of money to his side with three jingling thuds.

'So what if I did?' said Mr Evil. 'Grubby burglars! If you don't put my gold back in its safe, I'll make you both pay! I have a network of resources you can't even begin to imagine!'

'Not without this lot, you don't,' said Draughts, kicking the sacks on the floor.

'Threatening the woman I love doesn't sit right with me, not in the slightest,' said Checkers. 'I say we teach this degenerate lowlife a lesson, Draughts, what do you reckon?'

'I reckon you're right, Checkers,' sneered Draughts, sniggering down at Mr Evil, whose eyes were widening in horror as possibility after possibility raced through his wicked mind. He'd heard the stories. He knew what Checkers and Draughts did to people who stood in their way. Mr Evil watched, his eyes small and piggish, as Checkers reached into his hat and pulled something out.

'What's that?!' snapped Mr Evil.

'Matches. I carry them everywhere,' said Checkers. 'Never know when they'll come in handy, do we Draughts?' He took a single match from the tiny packet and held it up to his eyes. Then, in a flash, he struck the match to the packet's side. A flame ignited. Mr Evil couldn't bear to take his eyes off the flame, watching, waiting for what would come next – yet, behind Checkers, something glistening caught his eye. At first, he thought it was a slime-trail, like the one that the beggar with the tin had left behind … but then it dawned on him.

'NO!' cried Mr Evil. 'DON'T DO THIS!'

'Why?' said Checkers, the flame of the match reflected in his dead black eyes. 'Will anything change if I blow this match out now, and leave your shop unscathed? What are you going to do to make it up to poor Mr Perkins and young Tiny Tim?'

'I already told you that's not – MY – FAULT!'

Mr Evil knew immediately that he'd blown his only chance. Before he could do something – anything – to prevent it, Checkers had thrown the match behind him. He heaved the heavy sacks on the ground back over his shoulder, and – with a final smirk and a wave – both he and Draughts sprinted off into the night, calling him names and cackling together with laughter. Before his very eyes, Mr Evil's shop – everything that he'd worked for – went quickly up in flames.

And they would pay!

But first – he had to salvage whatever he could. Bravely, or perhaps foolishly, Mr Evil pulled the collar of his nightgown over the bottom half of his face and dashed headfirst into the blazing fire. He didn't keep it all in the safe. It wasn't possible that they had found everything he'd stashed away in there. Shielding his eyes now from the heavy, blackening smoke, he turned a corner as he entered Perkins' smouldering office and rammed open the door to his own. There was always money in the drawers! He'd just have to grab what he could!

'Not so fast …!' said a cold, hushed voice.